John Burnight

Associate Professor of Religion

burnight
Phone: 
(319) 273-7641

John Burnight

Associate Professor of Religion

Why I teach:
I became interested in religion in a somewhat unusual way: through the study of modern Middle Eastern culture and politics. I was an International Relations major in college, and took two courses that changed my academic and career plans completely: one on the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict, and another on contemporary Israeli literature. The professors of both courses said that to understand the material, it was important to know the religions involved, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. So I started studying the Bible, and was fascinated by what I found. It was so much richer and more rewarding than I expected.

I then started studying the languages of the Bible, Hebrew and Greek, and later Arabic and the Quran. Knowing the histories, ideas, and beliefs of the great monotheistic faiths isn't just useful for learning about the Middle East, though: it also helps us to understand the foundations of all of western culture and literature, the ideas that have shaped our society. Even if you thought Sunday School was boring, the Bible (and the Quran) can be a lot more interesting than you might think.

Education: 

Ph.D. (with honors), Hebrew Bible/Northwest Semitic Philology, University of Chicago

MA, Ancient Near Eastern Studies, University of Chicago

BIS, International Relations and Psychology, University of Minnesota